Meet the Tony Robbins for the Budding Creator Set
A version of this article appears in the October/November 2021 issue of Fortune.
Tejas Hullur (@tejashullur) is a creator’s creator. His most-watched TikToks typically involve goofy stunts, like paying for a Starbucks order with a stack of blurred-out money (3.8 million views) or digging to the bottom of a pool of sprinkles at the Museum of Ice Cream (4.6 million views). But more commonly he’s hard at work building a personal brand as the Tony Robbins for the creator economy — complete with a thick shock of hair and megawatt smile.
“People need to realize that the creator economy is one of the fastest growing in the entire world,” he intones on a video teasing his tips and tricks for creating great content (593,000 views) while insisting that YouTubers, TikTokers, and Twitch streamers are changing the nature of work. “Whatever you want to do, there’s a place for it on social media, and there’s legitimately not a better time than now to get started. If you deep down want to be a creator, don’t miss out on this opportunity that’s given you right now!”
As an entrepreneurship and corporate innovation major at Indiana University, Hullur, now 21, had always dreamed of being a content creator. In the summer after junior year, he tried to carve a niche in personal finance and professional development for Gen Z on YouTube. “I bought a camera, made some videos, and I was like, man, this is tough,” he says. When Charli D’Amelio hit 10 million TikTok followers, he pivoted. “I spent so much time just scrolling, trying to understand, why are some of these videos getting a million views and others getting a couple hundred?”
436,800 Followers 4.7 million Likes
Hullur created an account to convey what he was learning about how to go viral. He began racking up views and so decided to lean into it. “I have this vision, and I see where this world is coming to,” he says. He quickly determined that the “opportunity costs were too high” to stay in school, and decamped for Los Angeles, where lately he’s been running with a pack of high-profile influencers. He recently attended a birthday party attended by Dixie D’Amelio, Avani Gregg, Lil Huddy, and Bryant Eslava.
Hullur’s insights aren’t especially profound, but they do seem to resonate. One recent missive, titled “Apple targets our d*cks,” argues that the company’s success stems from the fact that it’s embarrassing to pull out a Samsung Galaxy phone when asking a girl for her number. The video racked up 365,000 views in three days and generated fawning comments like, “Bro your content is so fire,” and “Mind BLOWN.”
His focus on betterment, innovation, and wealth creation has attracted several brands, including Venmo and Robinhood. The experience of creating sponsored posts has taught him a lot about the importance of being prepared for tough discussions about money and creative control. He’s also learned the importance of fully energizing brand campaign work. “Especially on TikTok, viewers are ruthless. The beauty of the app is you can have one follower and get a million views,” he says. “But you can also have a million followers and only get 1,000 views, because the audience can smell bullshit right away. If my audience gets bored, they’re just one swipe away from their next dopamine hit.”
“If my audience gets bored, they’re just one swipe away from their next dopamine hit.”
Hullur also consults with clients about how they can best appear on TikTok. When asked for examples of brands that do TikTok especially well, he cites the Detroit Lions, Arby’s, Chipotle, and especially Ryanair. “They’re killing it because they just feel like another 20-year-old on the app. They don’t feel like a company.”
Hullur’s enthusiam is contagious, and his affection for his new line of work is obvious. “I love talking about this stuff because it’s insane!” he says. “We’re pioneering this new world of attention.”
He also has a deep appreciation for TikTok as a company. But he’s not tying his brand to the platform. “If Tejas from the future comes back to me, like a year from now, and is like, ‘Yo, like, TikTok doesn’t exist anymore,’ I’ll be a little surprised. But that’s kind of just what social media is. We saw it with Vine. At the end of the day, TikTok is kind of still a startup. So you never know.”
Jeffrey O’Brien is editor in chief of the Bay Area content studio StoryTK.